Serbia: Amnesty International deplores Roma Gypsy resettlements
last update: October 17, 16:54
Belgrade, 17 Oct. (AKI) – Amnesty International on Wednesday sharply criticised Serbian authorities for forcibly resettling Roma Gypsies in the capital Belgrade earlier this year and called for legislation banning such evictions.
"The mass forced eviction demonstrates the need for legislative changes in Serbia. The authorities need to urgently adopt a law which prohibits forced evictions and sets out safeguards that must be complied with prior to any eviction so that the right to adequate housing and other human rights of any community due for evictions are respected," Amnesty said.
In April, Belgrade authorities removed about 1,000 Roma Gypsies from an encampment in a shopping centre in New Belgrade, where they were living in cardboard shacks.
The Roma Gypsies were resettled to containers with water and electricity located in several areas on the outskirts of the city and elsewhere in Serbia, worsening the plight of many, according to Amnesty.
In Serbia, many of the resettled Roma, who earned living by collecting and recycling materials in the centre of Belgrade, complained that finding work in the new locations was impossible.
“Without work, many families are now dependent on the authorities for food, and have difficulty in accessing healthcare and other services,” Amnesty said.
Belgrade mayor Dragan Djilas has said the city could not afford “luxury appartments” for the resettled Roma, saying they had been offered much better conditions than they had in the Belvil shopping centre and were treated much better than in some European countries.
But Amnesty disputed Djilas' arguments.
“While the Belgrade authorities claim that they aimed to improve the situation of Roma by evicting them from Belvil, many have ended up in a far worse situation,” said Sian Jones, Amnesty International’s expert on Serbia.
“For many Roma who were sent back to southern Serbia, the lack of consultation or alternative housing options means that they have been returned to municipalities where they are homeless, and where there is no work,” Jones said.
“International standards clearly state evictions may only be carried out as a last resort, once all other feasible alternatives have been explored in genuine consultation with affected people. This was clearly not the case with the residents of Belvil,” Jones concluded.
Rome city council adopted a similar policy of demolishing encampments and forcibly resettling their inhabitants in containers on the outskirts of the capital, drawing criticism from Roma Gypsy leaders and rights watchdogs.
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